Ecclesiastes 6

I’m sure some will say this is really simplistic and silly but…..we are surrounded by tantrums.  The ESPN chick that melted down at the impound lot; the movie stars and college students that threw fits about “American Sniper”; the press officials who never answer questions and get mad when they are asked, and maybe even some policemen are throwing tantrums.  What is happening in Baltimore is a big tantrum.  I am convinced that the nature of human beings is the belief that they are the center of all things.  That really is original sin.  It is respect and love and trust in self rather than in God.  It is the Korean Airlines commercial writ large – “It’s all about you!”

Children come out of the womb believing that they are the center of the universe and we have raised generations that have fostered that belief.  As we enter the graduation season we will hear again how this new batch of grads are the best, most educated, brightest and greatest generation in history but please print their graduation card because they can’t read it otherwise.  So we brainwash a generation into believing that they can do anything without giving them the tools and the education.  When they realize that the world is tough and competitive they have tantrums.

Baltimore is and example of a huge tantrum.  What happened to the young man that died in police custody is a tragedy and a crime that will be sorted out, but what happened in Baltimore is a tantrum by those who say that they have been forgotten and no one pays attention to the inner cities.  Here is a frightening question – what happens if those who have been paying for the “war on poverty” for half a century have a tantrum and refuse to pay?

Christians believe in social justice and mercy and concern for the poor and the needy.  It is not optional for a Christian to engage in acts of mercy and service or not.  At the same time Christians have a powerful understanding of human nature and depravity that cannot be condoned or glossed over either.

Luther had a wonderful “take” on an interesting passage from Ecclesiastes 6:7.  Here is the way your Bible probably translates it – “Everyone’s toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied.”

Here is Luther’s take –

Toil is meted out to all men after the fashion of each, yet his soul is not satisfied. In Hebrew it reads: “All the toil of man is according to his mouth,” a phraseology that is peculiar to them. Moses uses this word “mouth” to mean fashion, or measure, this way in Gen. 47:12, speaking of Joseph: “And he provided them and all his father’s household with food, furnishing rations to each.” The Hebrew reads: “And he provided for them by providing according to the mouth”; that is, he provided for the entire household of his father after the fashion of infants, to whom rations are furnished even though they do no work. And Ex. 12:4 says: “According to the mouth of each you shall eat the Passover,” that is, according to the measure of
those who can eat the lamb. Thus also Solomon says here: “All their toil is according to their mouth,” that is, according to the fashion or the measure of each; in other words, each man has a certain amount of toil. God assigns to each man his toil in accordance with his powers and in keeping with his calling. In German we say it this way: “Each one has his allotted share.” To each one God has assigned his portion. A boy ought to toil in one way, a man in another; a magistrate ought to toil in one way, a private citizen in another. He wants you to be trained by means of infantile duties or labors, as though you were an infant, while the prince is trained with arduous and great ones. This is the source of the common saying: “Whatever one’s official position is, that is the apron he receives.” In this way, therefore, he calls us away from alien anxieties to our own business. Nor does he forbid toil. In fact, he declares that one must toil, but he wants you to do your duty happily in accordance with your assigned task and to leave other things to other people. He wants us to enjoy our pleasure, but in God, so that we do not abandon ourselves to pleasure when it is present, as the wicked do, nor grieve when it is absent but bear it with equanimity. You should, he says, have a happy spirit and an active body, but in such a way that you abide in your assigned
place. Do not be like the envious person, who pursues what belongs to others: the merchant envies the soldier; the soldier counts his troubles and envies the merchant; the old man envies the youth. We turn our gaze away from our own real happiness, and with intense distress we look at the happiness of other people. No one is able to consider the good things he has or to be content with his lot; if he were to consider himself, he would not long so much for what belongs to others. If, for example, old men could see the dangers that afflict youth, they would not want to be young. On the other hand, if young men could see the many discomforts of old age, they would be willing to bear their own discomforts and would not begrudge
the elderly their comforts. But we do not do this; instead, we are always looking at what belongs to others and despising what belongs to us. Thus the rich miser looks at and desires what he does not have, but neglects what he does have. For “his soul is not satisfied,” that is, he does not stick to his assigned task.